The long tentacles of John Edwards criminal trial, which begins today, will drag in a host of familiar faces from his 2008 presidential campaign and a number of Obama administration officials. At the heart of the case is the scheme to coverup Edwards' extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter and whether the Edwards campaign broke the law by not identifying some $900,000 in coverup money as campaign contributions. Here are some of the major figures getting roped in to the case:
John Edwards. Obviously, the trail looms large for Edwards, whose political career is dead but who faces the loss of his law license and up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Of course, nobody expects him to get locked away for that long if he loses. According to Lucy Madson at CBS News, crucial to the prosecutions case will be showing that Edwards knew that the money he received from Bunny Mellon and Fred Baron qualified as a campaign contribution and knowingly broke the law.
Andrew Young. The former aide to Edwards is the government's key witness. According to NewsBeast's Howard Kurtz, "Young’s anticipated testimony—along with voice-mail messages and handwritten notes from Edwards that he saved—are considered so important to the case that the former top campaign staffer is expected to be the prosecution’s lead-off witness when the trial gets underway this week." Meanwhile, the lead defense attorney Abbe Lowell will try to discredit Young and tarnish his record. "Part of Lowell’s strategy involves casting doubt on Young’s characterization of why he decided to publicly claim paternity of the love child Edwards had with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter," writes Newsweek's Diane Dimond. "Young has claimed that he made the decision after seeing Edwards on a December 2007 cover of Newsweek and realizing the North Carolina senator had a good shot at becoming president."
Barack Obama. Don't expect to see his face in the courtroom but his aides could play roles in the trial, reports Politico's Josh Gerstein. "At least five current Obama administration or campaign officials are on the prosecution or defense witness lists for the trial, and Obama’s 2008 campaign is expected to be drawn into the trial’s storyline, as prosecutors argue that Edwards’s political ambitions were very much alive even after he dropped out of the race in January 2008," he reports. "A deputy campaign manager for Obama’s re-election bid, Julianna Smoot, is listed as a defense witness. Smoot spent most of last year as White House social secretary, before going to the campaign. She was finance director on Edwards’s 1998 Senate bid and on Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008." Additionally, other Obama administration officials include Mark Kornblau, a communications director at the U.N. and Sam Myers Sr., trip director for Vice President Joe Biden.
Elizabeth Edwards. The actions of Edwards's diseased wife are expected to play out prominently especially in the testimony of Andrew Young. In his book, Young says one of the reasons he agreed to claim paternity of Edwards' child with Hunter was because Edwards invoked his wife's fight with cancer. "According to Young’s memory, Edwards told him 'that if I helped him, I would make Mrs. Edwards’s dying days a bit easier…[saying] ‘I can’t let her die knowing this.'" Of course, Elizabeth did eventually find out about her husbands' philandering before her death in December 2010.
Eric Holder. The attorney general won't be in the courtroom but his Justice Department will be watched closely in this case. "Justice’s Public Integrity Section badly needs a win to counter a series of acquittals in recent campaign finance-related cases, including that of a key finance staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate bid, David Rosen, and Edwards backer Geoffrey Fieger," writes Josh Gerstein. "The unit’s also still recovering from the debacle that led Attorney General Eric Holder to seek the dismissal of Sen. Ted Stevens’s conviction on ethics charges." Melanie Sloan at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tells him “If he’s acquitted, the Public Integrity Section continues its slow decline into irrelevance."